Last night I drove out to meet a good friend and fellow pipe smoker and collector who happened to be passing through town on his way home. My friend, who must remain anonymous, but who I will call George in this post, had a couple dozen pipes from his collection with him, some to show me, but most were for smoking on his sojourn.
George had some fantastic pipes; the most surprising pieces were a couple of Stanwells that one could mistake for super high grade Danish pieces. One had smooth grain that surpassed 99% of my collection. The other was a ring-grained freehand with which Bruce Weaver or Jim Cooke would have been delighted. These pieces were jaw-droppers.
Over the course of our hour long conversation, the subject rolled around to the George’s very real concerns that his clients might discover that he is a pipe- and cigar-smoker. For George, being outed as a pipe-smoker would have the same effect on his professional employability as my clients’ hearing that I have a gambling problem (In reality, I don’t gamble at all). These revelations could render us both unemployable.
Since I left George last evening, I’ve been rolling our conversation around in my head. It troubles me that we have come to the point in our society where being a pipe smoker makes one a pariah. Regardless of political leaning, we have become a nation of puritanical, coercive meddlers who, on the one hand sing paeans to “freedom” and, on the other hand, refuse to allow their fellow citizens to live freely. Among liberals, it is more socially acceptable to smoke dope than a tobacco pipe. That’s just ‘winking’ at the law, it seems. Smoking a pipe is still legal, although only the Almighty knows how long it will continue to be so.
While I don’t want to imply in any way that I am better or more noble than my friend, George, I have let my friends, family, clients, and acquaintances know, in no uncertain terms, that I am a pipe smoker. If I am an unacceptable friend, consultant, or family member because I smoke a pipe, so be it. To be blunt, if people cut me off for this reason, I don’t want them in my life, anyway. I have little use for narrow-minded, judgmental people, anyway.